Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu/Hawaiian/Portuguese)
was born in Sacramento, California, in 1946, and raised in the nearby
town of Bryte. Fonseca attended Sacramento City College and California
State University, Sacramento, where he studied for a time, with Frank
LaPena. During this period, Fonseca also became more involved with his
Native California heritage, especially the Maidu dance tradition, all
of which helped him to grow as an artist.
Although Fonseca considers himself to be largely self-taught, he cites
the dual artistic influences of his uncle, Henry Azbill, and the Konkow
Maidu artist Frank Day. Fonseca's early paintings explored the Coyote
trickster, the Maidu creation story, St. Francis of Assisi, rock art,
and in 1997, when he offered a Native perspective on California's sesquicentennial
with his series The Discovery of Gold in California
The genocide and destruction of California Indian cultures that followed
the gold rush. Fonseca painted these canvases in the open air of the
Sierra foothills, where his ancestors had lived for generations.
"Being in the environment in that country, feeling the energy
of the land, gave me a chance to work with the subject matter on a different
level than before. The upheaval that took place on all levels was the
catalyst for this body of work. It started with the land and Native
American cultures that were disrupted if not destroyed, and evolved
into how the Gold Rush affected everybody. The drama just grew and grew."
Harry Fonseca, The Discovery of Gold in California, Oakland Museum of
Fonseca's art has been shown both nationally
and internationally, including Japan, Germany, Italy and Austria. In
2003, Fonseca was invited to participate in the National Museum of the
American Indian's Continuum--12 Artists show, to which he contributed
"New Paintings," a set of two distinct series entitled "Seasons" and
"Stripes." Fonseca's most recent exhibition, "California Stories," was
shown in 2004 at Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts Museum.
Fonseca, who now resides in Santa Fe, was honored in April 2004 with
the Allan Houser Memorial Award, which is presented to an American Indian
who has achieved outstanding artistic success and community involvement.